Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
After Page One: The Journey

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A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire

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Interrupting the Questions

 

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years questioning myself. Can I fit writing into my busy parenting life? Do I have anything worthwhile to say? Will people want to read what I write? When I made the decision to pursue an MFA, even more questions arose: How can I spend all this money if I am not making any? Will I be remotely as good as the other students? Am I too old for this?

The questions droned on in my conversations with other writers, took up pages in my journal, and kept my mind occupied for months. I tried wholeheartedly to push them away, but they always seemed to linger around the edges. Those doubts and hesitations are powerful.

Then the semester began.

It didn’t take long for me to settle into a schoolwork routine. Each week I must read a book in my genre—women’s nature writing—and write a four- or five-page critical response to it. Every two weeks I create a new creative nonfiction essay, about ten pages. On top of that I have to revise my essays based on the feedback I receive. And now that we are halfway through the semester, it’s time to start thinking about the final twenty-page critical paper.

Oh, and then there’s the rest of my life.

If it seems like a lot of work, it is. If I had nothing else to do each day it would be a breeze, but as it is, the schoolwork now weighs in as heavily as family obligations, with everything else (housework, garden, exercise, etc.) fitting in where it will.

I am currently in the middle of my latest essay and have found myself stuck in its creation. It’s not great, it’s not terrible, but whatever it is, it’s draining me. I sat staring at my screen a few nights ago and began to hear the old familiar questions pop up. Can I do this? Do people really want to read about a walk in the woods with my kid? Maybe I should… But then I stopped myself.

I have ten pages due in three days. And a five-page reading response. I can’t take an evening to write self-deprecating lines in my personal journal, I can’t call a friend to bemoan my status, I can’t put off the work by doing laundry or dishes instead. It makes no sense to belittle the quality of writing that has yet to come fully into existence. What makes sense is sitting down and putting my thoughts on the page. I do not have time to falter.

Doubts and questions can be good, they offer us a chance to step back and reassess. But sometimes they outlive their usefulness. Since entering into this MFA program I have ceased asking those questions because they were pointless questions to begin with. But even more, I’ve been entirely too busy to listen to them. My schoolwork has taught me plenty already. One of the biggest lessons is that when it comes to creative writing, more often than not, the doubts that try to hold us back are truly not worth our time.

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Join our After Page One series. We’re looking for 300 to 500-word guest posts that motivate, inspire, and encourage other mama-writers, and we’d love to feature YOUR thoughts about getting started, getting back to a writing project, integrating writing with motherhood, reading, or having a positive attitude. The list is endless, but here are some questions that might help you get started. We’ll publish a short bio so readers can learn more about you and your projects. 


Amanda Jaros is a freelance writer and blogger, focusing on nature and science stories. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines including Terrain.org, Newfound, Life in the Finger Lakes Magazine, Highlights for Children, and Cargo Literary. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Chatham University.


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Deadline-driven writing: the best kind... and sometimes the only kind. I do beg to differ about laundry & dishes though. When I get stuck I do something "mindless" like walk, garden, dishes, folding laundry - and that lets my writing brain relax and then somehow I'm working on the story in my head and then I have to grab a pen and notebook and I'm back to writing through that stuck spot.
Good point Sue! The mindless things do help the brain relax. Thanks for reading.
Great post, Amanda! All of us, whether or not we're pursuing an MFA, go through this from time to time. And I think knowing you aren't alone is half the battle. Remember what a wonderful role model you are: tackling a dream no matter how difficult it may be. That should keep you going, and hopefully put the doubts to rest. Write on!
Thanks Christina. I appreciate the support! And yes knowing we are not alone is incredibly helpful.
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